11/13/05, Pledge Sunday

“Time to Tithe”

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple.
 If you do, “says the LORD Almighty, I will open the windows of heaven for you."
I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!
Try it! Let me prove it to you!” (Malachi 3: 10, New Living Translation)

Two men crashed in a small plane on an uncharted desert island. One of the men brushed himself off and then frantically ran all over the tiny island looking for help. When he returned, he rushed up to the other man and screamed, "This Island is uninhabited, there is no food, and there is no water. We are going to die! Why are you just sitting there smiling?" The other man calmly leaned back against the fuselage and responded, "No we're not. I make ten million dollars a year." The other man grabbed his friend and shook him. "Listen, we are on an uninhabited island. We are going to die!" The other man, unruffled, again responded. "No, I make ten million a year." Mystified, the first man, repeated, “ I'm telling you we ARE doomed. There is NO one else on this island!" Still unfazed, the first man looked the other in the eyes and said, "Do not make me say this again. I make ten million a year and I tithe; My Pastor will find me!"

My beloved predecessor at Atlanta First, Dr. Pierce Harris, used to say, "I love to preach on money; I love to see the stingy squirm and I love to see the loyal smile!" We will have many smiling faces this Sunday as we dedicate our Pledge Cards at the Altar.

Actually, smiling faces may just be the greatest earthly benefit of tithing. I have come to feel that the best part of being a Christian is the abiding joy that He gives through all the things that happen, good or bad. Not that everything that happens is joyful. Sometimes we can't even look on the sunny side of life; but, God's blessing to us of an inner assurance of salvation and an abiding joy is not dependant upon outward circumstances. The overarching peace of the Holy Spirit gives us confidence whatever the outward situation may be, even a plane crash on a deserted desert isle.

As we have moved toward our Great American Celebration of Thanksgiving and on into our precious Christmas Season of Giving, we will focus much of our music, worship, and preaching around the themes of how "everyone" has been included in those numbered to be included in this great Good News of salvation and the joy of belonging to God through Christ.

Today we say that the practice of magnanimous giving through the Biblical teaching of Tithing can become a great blessing in our lives. It is not a law in the New Testament but is a benchmark for percentage giving; some give more than ten-percent and some less.

Let’s look at today’s clear instructions concerning the tithe.

First, “everyone”  is encouraged to give a percentage of their income back to God who is the fountainhead of our blessings. Many of us were taught to tithe by our parents. This year we have distributed Pledge Cards to “Children” and “Youth” as a way to help parents train up their children in the way that they should live. What a wonderful practice to instill in our children. My folks encouraged me to tithe from my first little jobs.

Second, we should tithe through our church. Other offerings are gifts that we may feel led to give to other church funds and worthy causes beyond the tithe. Our church represents the Old Testament “Storehouse, or Temple, in our text.

Third, tithing is the great leveler for “everyone” is the same in God’s sight. The person, or family, that tithes on a small income is giving proportionately as much as the wealthier who are tithing on ten million dollars and expect the pastor to come save them from the deserted desert isle crash site. This equality enables all people to feel as if they are making the same sacrificial gift to God.

Fourth, we are able to make this magnanimous gift out of a heart of gratitude to God who is the source of blessings. Whenever we feel like we have earned our high paying career or job we typically remember how God led us through the many turns and fortunate career opportunities to get to where we are.

Fifth, we want to tithe because of our wonderful relationship with Christ which is mediated by God’s Holy Spirit. Most of you can join in saying that we are the persons that we are because of the working of God in our souls. Without His Prevenient Grace I do not think that I would have survived adolescence. We all have reasons to be thankful!

Sixth, we do not have to give more than the tenth, but many do. They do so because of love for God and all His precious souls for whom Christ died. Many enjoy magnanimous giving. It’s a joy to look out at the many smiling faces.

Our father, John Wesley, gave all that he had to God’s work. Whenever he made money from book publishing, he gave it to his societies. When he died his only estate was a few personal items and The Methodist Church. What a legacy!

When C. S. Lewis finally married in his late 50’s his wife took over his finances and found that he had been giving nearly all of his significant royalties, fees and salary away. He only held a non interest bearing checking account. Of course, the new Mrs. Lewis soon changed things at her husband’s displeasure.

Finally, God gives us a wonderful sense of wellbeing; even if you are just one of two survivors in a plane crash on an uncharted desert island. At the lease, hope would keep you alive for a few more weeks to give the preacher time to paddle out in his canoe.  

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
11/13/05, Pledge Sunday